Forklift Trucks and Severe Injuries: Priorities for Prevention

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #30 - 1992

Authors: G. Rechnitzer & T. Larsson

Full report mono (pdf) [1.5MB]
Full report colour (pdf) [3.4MB]


The use of forklift trucks in industry is associated with severe injuries and fatalities. The problem is well-known and reported in the literature since the 1960s. In this study, funded by the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Commission, the present regulations and standards in Victoria are reviewed and compared with a number of International regulations, severe injuries and fatalities in Victoria (1987-1990) associated with forklift use in industry are analysed, and critical incidents and risk assessments from a number of worksites in Melbourne are presented.

The main conclusion - from earlier research and the present data - is that the most important injury problem is the result of interaction between the forklift vehicle and pedestrians. Forklift trucks are not recognised as vehicles - in regulations or in industry - and are not subjected to systematic traffic management, with the industrial work environment not designed accordingly.

"Pedestrian-hit-by-forklift truck" make up 45% of the injuries in the study. The three major industrial areas with high numbers of forklift injuries are manufacturing plants, warehouses /coldstores /wholesalers and freight handlers.

It is suggested that the future regulations and standards in the area be more specific and practical, and set forth examples of good practices. It is suggested:

  • that forklift truck and pedestrian movements in freight terminals only take place at separate levels,
  • that all forklift truck movements in warehouses be separated - in space or time - from manual order-picking, and
  • that forklift trucks movements in manufacturing plants be completely separated from pedestrian walkways and work stations.

Recommendations are also made in regard to the need to upgrade aspects of forklift design and load handling practice. An implementation strategy for the report's major findings is also presented.

The study represents a combination of a road safety approach (Monash University Accident Research Centre) and occupational injury research experience (Institute for Human Safety and Accident Research, IPSO Australia).

Sponsor: Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Commission